Thursday, 31 May 2012

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Apricot and Almond Filling

When will I learn to check the store cupboard before starting out on a baking session? I was sure there was still a packet of marzipan left over from Christmas, but no - there was only a measly 50g, wrapped in foil in the fridge (there would have been more, but for the thin slices I keep sneaking off leftover marzipan stored this way!)

So let me start by saying, the thicker the slice of marzipan you can put in the filling of this cake, the better it will be. I carried on with just the 50g that I had, but usually I would use half a pack - around 125g.

I saw a new chocolate cake recipe by Annie Bell recently, again, using oil insted of butter. I really wanted to try the cake, but didn't want fresh cream and fruit in the middle nor a marshmallow frosting. I decided to top the cake with chocolate fudge frosting and fill it with a family favourite - layers of apricot jam, marzipan and chocolate frosting. After 24 hours or so, the layers meld together as the marzipan dissolves, resulting in a sticky almond flavoured filling. Of course, we never wait for 24 hours before cutting the cake, so it tastes different on the first day, with each different flavour being noticeable.

The chocolate fudge frosting is made by melting 175g plain chocolate and 30g of butter together, then whisking in 2 tablespoons of golden syrup and 3 tablespoons milk. This is left to cool until it just holds it's shape - just under half is used in the filling and the rest spread on top of the cake.

I assemble the cake with a thick layer of apricot jam on the bottom layer of cake, then a circle of marzipan rolled to fit the cake, then the chocolate frosting, before putting on the top layer of cake.

This was a really delicious cake - the large amount of sugar did not make the cake over-sweet, but gave it a dense, moist texture, and counteracted the bitterness of the large amount of cocoa used. I'm sure this is good enough to use as the basis of a gateau, or a celebration cake - it tastes much richer than the ingredients would suggest. I'm certainly pleased to have had this recipe pointed out to me - it's a good companion to the lighter sponge recipe, also by Annie Bell, that I already use! Thanks to my friend, Jude, who searches out likely looking recipes.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Hazelnut & Cinnamon Cake with Chocolate Streusel

Between having the kitchen taken over by plumbers performing emergency surgery on the hot water and heating system, and the rush to catch up with gardening jobs now that it's drier and warmer, there hasn't been much time for baking during the last week or so.

But I've got the kitchen back now, and have also been handed a project by FB, so there's no excuse (except the extreme heat) for avoiding it any longer. Not that I think baking is something to be avoided - I spent ages last week looking at the bakery shelves in the supermarkets, thinking either that things were too expensive to buy, or were too small to be worth the money asked for, or that I could make similar things much better. I played safe with muffins in the end - relatively cheap and I'm safe in the knowledge that CT often prefers commercial muffins to my home-baked ones, so he'd be happy, at least!

FB is moving on to a new job soon, and has promised a cake for her colleagues when she hands in her notice (and another when she leaves, no doubt!). She said she had thought up the idea of a cinnamon flavoured cake with a chocolate and hazelnut topping, and was quite miffed when I showed her that this idea wasn't original!

I didn't have any buttermilk, so decided that I'd have a trial run using the very adaptable Annie Bell recipe, which has been so useful in the past. I left out the lemon, and flavoured the cake with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and a teaspoon of cocoa, and substituted 50g ground hazelnuts for the same weight of flour. Then I sprinkled over a crumble topping made by mixing 55g melted butter with 50g flour, 50g light muscovado sugar, 20g cocoa and 25g finely chopped toasted hazelnuts.  This makes a solid dough, which is then crumbled over the raw cake batter before baking - it usually works much better than a dry crumble mix, but in this case it sort of melted into the surface, and didn't look like a streusel topping!

This was a really well flavoured, light textured cake, but there are several things which need improving before FB can take it into work. The first is to increase the amount of topping, to give a complete streusel covering, and perhaps go back to a dry crumb mix. The chocolate flavour needs strengthening too - use chopped chocolate instead of, or as well as, the cocoa, maybe. There also needs to be more cinnamon in the cake mix - at least another teaspoon. Other than that, I'm pleased with the first version of this flavour combination, using this particular recipe.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Pear and Elderflower Upside-down Cake

The theme for this month's Tea Time Treats challenge is floral - either in appearance or flavour. After my disastrous attempt to use rosewater in a Turkish Delight flavoured jam tart, I had a quick rethink and decided to try making something flavoured with elderflowers. In any other year, elderflowers would probably be blooming by now, and could be picked and used, but they are still a few weeks off flowering in this cold and wet part of the world, so elderflower cordial would have to do instead.

I wanted to use the cordial to flavour a sponge cake and decided to make an upside down cake with pears, so that the flavour of the elderflower wouldn't be overwhelmed by the other ingredients. I'm not sure I succeeded totally on that point, but I did manage to arrange the pears to make the cake look almost floral!

I adapted this recipe for a Lighter Lemon Drizzle Cake again, and made it larger by around 30%, so that I could use a larger cake tin.

I used a 9" (22cm) springform tin, lined with baking parchment to come about 1/2" (2cm) up the sides of the tin. (Unfortunately this still wasn't quite high enough to prevent the syrup in the base from leaking out, so I really must get hold of some cake tin liners for these sort of cakes!)

I sprinkled the base of the cake tin with 50g light muscovado sugar, and dotted around about 50g butter. I then drizzled over 2 tablespoons of elderflower cordial before arranging tinned pears and halved glacé cherries into a vaguely floral pattern. I used  7 pear halves, cutting one into a circle for the centre of the arrangement, but I wished I had squeezed in another when I saw the finished cake.

For the cake batter, I used:

240g SR flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
100g polenta
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
190g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
270mls natural yogurt
100mls sunflower oil
3 tablespoons elderflower cordial
few drops yellow colouring

This is a cake which is simple to make - put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Beat together the yogurt and eggs and stir that and the oil into the dry mix until fully incorporated. Stir in the cordial and colouring at the end, before spooning the batter over the fruit carefully, so as not to disturb the fruit. Bake at 180C for about 60 minutes, covering the cake if it seems to be browning too quickly. Test with a probe to see that it comes out clean, then leave the cake in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out, fruit uppermost.

The cake was well flavoured, and moist, although the elderflower wasn't a very strong influence - I think I should either have used a little more cordial, or left out the lemon zest in the batter.

If I hadn't have been using the floral theme, I would have cut the pears into thinner slices and packed them in more closely - as it was some servings didn't get their fair share of pears!

I served the cake as a dessert with creme fraiche, but  it would be equally at home on the tea table.

Tea Time Treats is a monthly baking challenge to provide goodies for the tea table, hosted alternately by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked. Karen chose this month's floral theme and will be posting a round-up of enries at the end of the month.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Marzipan, White Chocolate and Red Berry Cake

It seems a long time since I last wrote a blog post. I have been baking, but nothing new - things are a little hectic at the moment, and I haven't had time to look for new recipes, or even bake anything more complicated than easy one-bowl recipes which cook quickly, such as these brownies.

This cake is one such simple bake, although it takes a little longer than brownies to bake. The basic recipe, a Lighter Lemon Drizzle Cake, from Good Food is proving very versatile and open to adaptation.

This time I left out the lemon in the cake and omitted the the soaking syrup altogether, and added 50g each of chopped white marzipan, white chocolate and a red berry mix (cherries, cranberries, strawberries and blueberries), which was roughly chopped to avoid large pieces of fruit.

The result was a delicately flavoured cake, with the marzipan and the fruit being the highlight flavours, and the white chocolate giving a hint of vanilla. The ground almonds and polenta give a firm, moist texture.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A Trio of Tarts

The plan was to complete all my monthly baking challenges in one afternoon, with three varieties of shortcrust pastry tarts which fitted in with the themes of each challenge, but you know what they say about the best laid plans.....

I'll gloss over the mishap quickly. The Tea Time Treats challenge for May was to use flowers in some form. I'd seen Dan Lepard's recipe for Rosewater Delight Jam Tarts a few weeks ago, and this seemed an ideal opportunity to try it. Unfortunately my Rosewater flavoured jam filling was far from delightful - it was bitter, chemical tasting, and frankly, inedible! It may be that there are different grades or strengths of Rosewater on the market, and I guess, rather than following the recipe blindly, I should have been warned by the fact that the last time I baked with this brand of Rosewater, I only needed a teaspoon to flavour a whole batch of blondies. The tarts looked very pretty, with the deep pink colour from the strawberry jam, and sprinkled with chopped pistachios, but in the end I was grateful that the filling was only enough for two 9cm (3 1/2") tarts. So, back to the square one for a Tea Time Treat this month.

These Chocolate and Marzipan Tarts, were far more successful. They were made for We Should Cocoa , where the challenge this month is to use almonds.

I used a sweet shortcrust pastry to line 4 tartlet tins, then put a teaspoon of smooth apricot jam in the bottom of each unbaked case. I topped this with a 2mm thick circle of marzipan which just fit inside the pastry case. The chocolate topping was an all-in-one sponge mix of 50g each of sugar and butter, 1 egg, 35g SR flour, 15g of cocoa, with 50g melted plain chocolate folded into the cake batter. This was baked at 180C for about 25 minutes, until the pasrty was cooked and the filling felt firm.

I didn't get to taste these, but the reports were that although the marzipan couldn't be seen, there was a tasty sticky almondy layer at the bottom of each tart, which complimented the chocolate cake topping.

The third variety of tart was Rhubarb and Hazelnut, and these are for the AlphaBakes challenge - this month the letter H was randomly chosen by Caroline at Caroline Makes; H is for Hazelnuts, of course! 

For these I filled 4 unbaked pastry cases with a hazelnut frangipane made from 50g each of sugar and butter, 1 egg, 40g ground hazelnuts and 20g plain flour beaten together. This was divided between the pastry cases, then a few pieces of cooked rhubarb were pressed into the surface. Again. these were baked at 180C for about 25 minutes, until the frangipane was golden brown, and the pastry cooked.

These were delicately flavoured, but very tasty, although I think the concept would have been more successful in a large tart, where more rhubarb could have been used. I haven't tried the combination of rhubarb and hazelnuts before, but it will definitely be used again!

Despite the disappointment of the Rosewater Delight Jam Tarts, this was a good baking session and gave me a chance to use my new tartlet tray from Sainsbury's, as well as make my entries for two of the baking challenges that I take part in. The family got some lovely Bank Holiday treats too!

We Should Cocoa is a monthly cooking challenge to use chocolate and a nominated ingredient or cooking method together. It is jointly hosted by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog, and Chele at Chocolate Teapot, although this month the theme was chosen by a guest host - Laura of How to Cook Good Food
The AlphaBakes Challenge is a monthly baking challenge to make something  featuring a randomly chosen letter - this can be part of the name of the product or one of the major ingredients. It is hosted jointly by Caroline, from Caroline Makes, and Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker, who take turns to generate a random letter and collate the entries. 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Dried Fruit

This is a sturdy everyday sort of chocolate cake, which you can make more or less luxurious by varying the quantity of add-ins, and by choosing dried fruit and nuts to suit your budget. I wasn't feeling very extravagent, so only added 50g of chopped chocolate and 50g of sweetened dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, strawberries and blueberries), but the cake would easily have taken double this amount. More common dried fruit, such as sultanas and raisins, would make the cake cheaper.

I loosely based the cake on this Good Food recipe for a 'lighter' lemon drizzle cake. I kept the quantities of grains, sugar, eggs, oil and yogurt the same, but instead of using 175g flour, 50g polenta and 50g ground almonds, I used 200g flour, 25g cocoa and 50g coarsely ground hazelnuts. Any trace of lemon was omitted, as well as the final soaking syrup. The chopped chocolate and dried fruit was stirred into the final batter. I whizzed the fruit a little in the mini-chopper, after grinding the nuts, to cut up any large pieces of fruit - the strawberries were quite large.

This wasn't a very rich chocolate cake, as befits an 'everyday' cake, but it was well-flavoured and moist and it was nice to chew on the juicy pieces of fruit, which aren't often added to chocolate cake. As I said earlier, adding more fruit and chocolate would make a more luxurious cake.